Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A Month In Books - May 2017


I have hit two reading milestones this month. Firstly my book reviews blog, Literary Flits, is one year old today - Happy Blogiversary to me! If you're looking for a good book to read, there's now 365 suggestions to browse through. They are indexed by author, or if you scroll to the bottom of each post you can click on the individual label links to be taken to more books of a similar age / theme / nation / ...

I also got my 100 Reviews badge at NetGalley so now have a shiny new icon to display:
100 Book Reviews Yay me!

With the General Election looming I decided to have another themed reading month and chose a selection of Essential General Election Reads: books exploring various political themes that are important to me. Some posts review new reads and are detailed in the main post below, others are transferred reviews of books I had already read. If you're interested, here's my link list:

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
The Road To Wigan Pier by George Orwell
A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin
My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst
From Fatwa To Jihad by Kenan Malik
Such Little Accident by Mike Robbins (my review in Comments)
Honourable Friends by Caroline Lucas
The Rights Of Man by H G Wells (from noon 1st June)


I am delighted that Literary Flits hosted another four Guest Reviews this month. If you have an indie author, small press or global literature book review that you would like to share please do get in touch. It doesn't need to be exclusive content and you can check here to see if a book has already been reviewed. I look forward to hearing from you!

For myself, I read nineteen books in May including biography, short stories, horror and science fiction from as far afield as Iraq and Argentina, and as long ago as 1598.
Don't forget to check out the associated Giveaways!


Guest reviews


Elusive by Sara Rosett

Download the free ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read the original book review on Literary Flits by author Bluette Matthey.


Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from Speedyhen
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository

Read the original book review on Literary Flits by book blogger Joy of Joyous Reads.


Bad Sons by Oliver Tidy

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read the original book review on Literary Flits by crime fiction author Tin Larrick.


Awash In Talent by Jessica Knauss

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read the original book review on Literary Flits by horror author Norman Prentiss.


My reviews

The Idea Of You by Amanda Prowse

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Trail Of Miracles by Smadar Herzfeld

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


The President's Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli

Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from Speedyhen
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst

Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Self Service Check-outs Have No Soul by Andy Carrington

Buy the ebook directly from the author

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Carrington's new poetry collection doesn't have the fiery anger of some of his previous work, but instead is muted by nostalgia and resignation as he perhaps comes to terms, Cassandra-like, with his predictions and warnings being ignored.


The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Sovereignty by Anjenique Hughes

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Accommodation Offered by Anna Livia

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


ReejecttIIon: a Number Two by Daniel Clausen and Harry Whitewolf

Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Nest In The Bones by Antonio Di Benedetto

Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Kobo
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Buy the audiobook download of this production from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the CD audiobook via Alibris
Buy the CD audiobook from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Underneath by Anne Goodwin

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Walk! Dartmoor by Kate and Alan Hobbs
Published in the UK by Discovery Walking Guides in January 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


The Giant Secret (1899AD): Finding Christopher by David Alan Webb

Download this story free from the author's website

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Life In A Haunted House by Norman Prentiss

Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Such Little Accident: British democracy and its enemies by Mike Robbins

Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Read my original book review on Literary Flits (in the Comments)


Old Loves Die Hard by Lauren Carr

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


Honourable Friends?: Parliament and the Fight for Change by Caroline Lucas

Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits


That's it for this month and I know I have already got some great books lined up for review in June including Kate Vane's new novel, Harry Whitewolf's new poetry collection and a Hollywood biography. Keep up daily on Literary Flits or I will see you here at the end of the month for another round up. Don't forget the Giveaways!

Monday, 29 May 2017

A morning at the South Devon Railway - Buckfastleigh

We already rode on the steam railway from Paignton to Kingswear earlier this year and yesterday we visited another one, the South Devon Railway which runs from Buckfastleigh to Totnes. The Buckfastleigh end is less than a half hour walk from our current campsite and we had thought about getting the train to Totnes. The £15 return trip ticket price (£14 for Dave) put us off though so we just visited the restored station instead. Including exploring the museum, gardens and Riverwalk took us a good couple of hours so we wer glad we hadn't rushed straight onto the train and away!

South Devon Railway was hosting a special 1960s themed weekend, part of which was their Buckstock Festival. We didn't have tickets for that, of course, but could hear a live band pumping out hits of the era and got to admire a couple of vintage buses and a trio of mod scooters parked out the front. Two displayed Torbay Mods Scooter Club stickers and the three looked fab as they zoomed past us later in the day.


If you visit Buckfastleigh station, make sure to take a walk around the little museum which has a wealth of artefacts relating to the line's history. We were lucky to get into conversation with the man operating an incredibly detailed model of Ashburton station as it was in the early 1930s. We learned about how busy the route had been with goods trains as well as passenger trains, and the thriving industries that no longer exist. Other exhibits include signage, paintings, photographs and small engines. There were free range eggs for sale there too! We didn't buy eggs, but did take advantage of the homemade cake and pie stall nearby!

One of the Moor Otters 
Crossing over the footbridge gives a great overview of the station, almost making it feel like a model itself! Just on the other side at the moment is a distinctive gold-coloured sculpture of an otter which is being displayed as part of The Moor Otters fundraising campaign. Auratus by Paul Bursnall is one of 100 decorated otters that are being displayed around Dartmoor gateway towns and in other surprise locations. Anyone spotting at least twenty of them can enter a competition to win prizes including cream teas, meals and hotel stays. Further details are on the Moor Otters website. Afterwards the otters will be auctioned to raise funds for vital Dartmoor conservation work.

We found bigger model trains on the garden railway loop, one puffing steam gave us a whistle as it passed by. I spotted another sculpture of a large dragonfly as we made our way back and headed towards the Riverwalk which is a lovely tranquil space on the edge of South Devon Railway's land. We thought we would be able to return to the road and walk home from here, but unfortunately the Riverwalk peters out into private access gardens so we had to retrace our steps - we did get double the tranquillity though.



Sunday, 28 May 2017

Walking Dartmoor from Shipley Bridge

As my Literary Flits bookreview of Walk! Dartmoor published itself yesterday, Dave and I were just setting out on the last of its suggested routes, Number 40: Avon Dam and Red Lake Quarry. We began by parking at Shipley Bridge where there is a small car park (£1 donation towards upkeep) just south of the Avon Reservoir. We got lucky with a space as it was already pretty full and indeed by the time we returned cars were parked out on the road and verges as well.

The route is very easy to begin with. It is a narrow tarmac road which goes up to the striking sight of Avon Dam. We passed lots of people on this first section including families with young children because, while the scenery of green trees and babbling brook is beautiful, it is also perfectly surfaced for pushchairs! I was disappointed to also see evidence of irresponsible dog owners. Two had bagged their dog's poo and then left the bags lying around for 'someone else' to clear away and, despite several signs requsting dogs be kept on leads during lambing and nesting season, two-thirds of the dogs I saw were running loose.

A track forks uphill before the dam and immediately becomes less well-used as it is not surfaced. It leads alongside the reservoir and allowed us the first of numerous gorgeous views across the valley. The dam itself is rather a shock! In the midst of natural greenery there is suddenly an enormous wall. Built in the 1950s, its purpose is to provide drinking water to towns situated in the lowlands. We wondered if it is used to create hydroelectric power too, but apparently not.

We continued alongside the reservoir until it narrowed back to a stream and the ground became very boggy. Faced with a stone wall and gates, we knew we had to go straight ahead, but couldn't get to the gate for the bog. It later turned out that had we kept tight to the stream bank on our left we could have kept dry and hopped over a stile cunningly disguised in a fence section. Instead we aimed right where a brook tumbles down the hill, eventually managing to ford this a hundred yards or so uphill.

Clapper bridge 
Back on the right route again, our next obstacle was that stream. It does have a ford located just as it bends to the right, however there must have been significant rain on Dartmoor as it was fast flowing so we took the clapper bridge option instead. This bridge is about 300 yards upstream from the ford - the path leads directly to it.

So brook and stream forded and boots still pretty much dry, we sallied forth up an old mining track - a gert. I could see the silhouettes of Petre's cross and another stone marker up on the hill directly ahead of us although our path curved to the right and then back around to circumvent the steep end of a small valley. Unfortunately just as we got near the crest this happened:


It's quite unnerving to be walking on a clear day one minute and to find yourself inside a cloud the next! Our route had a short out-and-back detour to Red Lake Quarry which we had already decided not to take, however right at this point we were struggling to see anything more than about ten yards away! Fortunately, with a combination of Ordnance Survey map, guide book and compass we located Petre's Cross.

Petre's Cross 
Unfortunately, on continuing we then found ourselves approaching what appeared to be a huge stone submarine, looming out of the mist! This is actually the Eastern White Barrow or Whittabarrow, a Bronze Age cairn which was enlarged at a later date into the landmark it is today. We didn't know that at the time of course. I googled it later. At the time we just knew that our guide book didn't mention any submarines, stone or otherwise, so we were going the wrong way. Oops!

Eastern White Barrow 
We weren't far off where we should have been. We had set out from Petre's Cross on too easterly a path, so now struck off south to find the disused tramway that we should have been following. In hindsight this was pointless as, even if we had crossed the tramway (and we might have done) it looks remarkably similar to any other track across Dartmoor so we were unlikely to have recognised its true history. We ended up on a compromise route that progressed, I think, in various degrees of parallel-ness to our guide book's suggestions.

Black Tor 
The mist began to clear as we crossed Brent Moor and we got to appreciate the dramatic rocks of Black Tor close up and were relieved to spot the tarmac track to Avon Dam way below - down a steep ridge and across the river! Fortunately descending the Shipley Bridge side of Black Tor was relatively simple and, again, had we been further over we would have been following another disused tramway. Dartmoor is riddled with them!

We were never very lost and Dave was always confident of the direction in which we needed to head, if not the exact don't-they-all-look-similar track we needed to follow. It was easy to imagine though how people could get easily turned around and end up marching out into the middle of the moors, not realising their mistake until too late. The experience was a tad scary for a while!

Small boyfriend on a big moor 

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Our visit to sunny Salcombe

Shell doorway 
We decided to pay a visit to the South Hams town of Salcombe yesterday, our reasoning being that it would probably be less manic on the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend than it would be on the Saturday. We began at the Park And Walk car park which, like at Sidmouth, is at the top of the hill. Salcombe's costs £3 for a day (or £3.03 if you don't have the right change and pay by mobile). It's then an pretty 15 minute walk into the waterside centre (allow 20 minutes to get back!). We both loved the pictured doorway, liberally adorned with seashells, which is just past the town museum.

Salcombe has a wealth of independent shops and businesses, many of which cater to more affluent residents and visitors. We noticed that a significant proportion of the houses hereabouts are holiday lets and I liked this advertising tricycle. I suspect it does not get ridden up the hill out of town at the end of each day!


We regretted not having pre-booked a tour at Salcombe's gin distillery, but did make a point of sampling Salcombe-made ice-cream and sorbet - both excellent. At the Tonic Gallery, we were both impressed by Greg Ramsden's paintings. He has an incredibly ability to capture light and to see the beauty in boatyard scenes. There are two wood sculptures currently at the gallery too, one which, resembling a wing, is particularly beautiful, but I forgot to note down the artists' names.

Back on the streets, we walked right out to the end of town passing a private quay and a row of old boatyard workshops several of which it was good to see are still utilised by boatbuilders. Others are now studios for other creative businesses including Will Bees Bespoke which makes gorgeous classic bags and purses. I was sorely tempted here!

Strolling back to the other end of the waterfront I was taken with the sign above the old public water fountain. Dire consequences are threatened to anyone caught using it to wash fish!

Salcombe has a lot of food sling establishments ranging from bakeries and delicatessens to luxurious seafront restaurants and it took us a while to make up our minds what we wanted to eat and where. Eventually we settled on The Fortescue Inn, a lovely olde worlde pub. I can highly recommend the fish finger sandwiches and Dave enjoyed his locally-smoked salmon sandwiches too.

Looking back over to Salcombe 
We toyed with the idea of taking an hour long estuary cruise, but the wide sandy beaches on the opposite shore looked too inviting so, instead of that, we crossed over on the pedestrian ferry (£1.60 per person each way). The beaches are privately owned, but open to the public and were popular with sunbathers on Friday. A few small children braved the water and I took my shoes off to wander in the surf, but wouldn't have wanted to swim. The water is still cold! We managed to get quite a way up to and through rocks before the water became too deep to continue. In the time it took us to decide whether we should continue, we nearly got ourselves cut off! The tide comes in quickly up the sand although a rock scramble was still an option.

I did like Salcombe as a place to visit. It is a very pretty little town with lots of charm and plenty to do for a day trip or long weekend. I am not sure I would be so keen to actually live there though. It was busy enough on Friday. I can imagine it being so crowded as to be uncomfortable through the summer months and getting in or out by road would be a nightmare!




Friday, 26 May 2017

Our first Trailer Tent experience at Buckfastleigh

Our Raclet Solena 
Do you remember that photo I posted a few weeks ago of the little orange trailer we took possession of on my birthday? Well it's now pitched up on a beautiful Camping And Caravanning Club CS site, The Crib, just outside Buckfastleigh. We are booked in here for four nights to get the hang of camping in a Raclet Solena and so far everything has gone pretty well! It's beautifully green here and, although traffic noise from the main road is pretty constant, it's not too intrusive and we can't see the cars for trees. Our nearest neighbours for the first night were bees and a trio of chickens! We can walk into Buckfastleigh and might go to see the steam railway there on Sunday.

Bee hives and a chicken house 
Obviously we expected that actually getting the tent set up for the first time would be considerably slower for us than it had been for the demo guy at Highbridge Caravans and it certainly was! Raclet Solenas like flat ground and the field at The Crib is sloping so we needed to borrow a plank to level it out! Once we got that sorted though, the rest was fairly straightforward and even hammering in all the awning pegs is much easier with Devon earth than it was with Spanish. I'm very happy with our Solena! The bed, with our mattress topper, is comfortable and there is a surprising amount of room in the folded-out trailer, even before we doubled the space with the awning. I love the large circular windows. They have three layers so can be dark canvas, mesh netting, clear plastic, and combinations of all three. You can see the view from the bedroom window at the end of this post. The trailer floor has a little carpet which looks much more practical than the ones that used to be in our Bailey caravan. There is also a zip-in groundsheet for the awning, but as this field is lush grass we decided not to use it here.

Our new 'toys' are great too! I'm sitting in my HiGear Delaware chair to type this post. It's good as a leisure or dining chair and I love the sturdy flip-up side table. We got one each to go with our folding Quest table. I like the efficient small gas jets on our Kampa Cucina double hob and it sits neatly on our old Outwell cupboard. Also Outwell, but a new acquisition, is our 24 litre EcoCool coolbox. It can run off mains or 12v and has a low power eco setting that actually works well. Apparently it can also be set to provide warmth - keeping cooked food hot - but we haven't tried that yet. Finally we've got our own little portable flushing toilet too! There is a shed bathroom onsite at The Crib, but the portable toilet is ideal  for the middle of the night.

So we're all set for a superb Bank Holiday Weekend and have fingers crossed that the glorious weather lasts until Monday.

The view from the bedroom!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Upcoming live music gigs I'm looking forward to

Since my last gigs post we heard truly amazing music from Rebecca Loebe and Luke Jackson at Starcross, and from Charlie Dore (with choir!) at Kingskerswell. Don't forget Rachel Ries is performing as Her Crooked Heart in Devon This Saturday (the 27th of May). We will be venturing to Kingsbridge to see her. It's essentially a house concert. Contact wheelwrightmark@gmail.com for more details and to reserve your seat!

June 2nd is our next live music gig and this one will definitely be fab as it is Carrie Elkin, a musician we've known for years, together with her husband, Danny Schmidt, whom we have known even longer. Carrie is touring Europe to promote her new album, The Penny Collector, and we will catch her at The Bellows at The Wheelwright Inn which is in Colyford, East Devon. Carrie has an amazing voice and I am keen to hear her new songs. Tickets for this gig are available directly from the venue.

We have a slightly longer gap before two back-to-back gigs in the east of the country. First we are booked to see Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin at Billericay Library - of all places! Gigs in unusual venues seems to be becoming 'a thing' and this Devon folk duo have five (I think) library gigs coming up across Essex. The Billericay date of The Libraries Tour is in the 16th of June and tickets are available through We Got Tickets. Other dates in the same week are at Maldon, Rayleigh, Harwich and Loughton and those four town name links take you to their respective We Got Tickets pages.

Back to Americana music and I don't know much about Jonathan Byrd, but Dave is keen to see him and that is a good enough recommendation for me! But if you want a second opinion, Rich Warren of WFMT in the Chicago Tribune says that Jonathan is “one of the top 50 songwriters of the last 50 years". The UK tour is from the 12th until the 23rd of June and we are going to the Eye gig on June the 17th at a Community Arts Centre venue called The Bank. Tickets for this gig are available directly from the venue and if you struggled to make the checkout work before, it has now been fixed!



So that's our live entertainment for May and June so far. Let me know if you're coming to any of these too and in the meantime, have a scroll through these South West gig listings from WeGotTickets and see if anything else catches your eye!



-->